MONTREAL — A Haitian asylum seeker who fled violence at home says he's worried about being sent back, especially as the situation in his country deteriorates due to civil unrest.
Claude, who would not give his real name for fear of reprisal, said he came to Canada after criminals ransacked his home and threatened his wife and children.
"They charged me ransoms, came to my place and looted my home," he said Saturday.
"Thanks to God they did not rape my wife and kids, my daughter."
Now, the 44-year-old father said he's scared to be sent back to Haiti, where he believes his possessions will be gone and he won't be able to protect his family.
He stood on the margins as about two dozen protesters held a rally in Montreal on Saturday to call on the Canadian government to declare a moratorium on deportations to Haiti due to civil unrest in the country.
Holding handmade signs — some taped to hockey sticks — they chanted "No one is illegal!" during a two-hour demonstrations in front of Citizenship and Immigration Canada's Montreal office.
Organizer Frantz Andre said they are asking Canada to reinstate a moratorium on deportations to Haiti that was previously in place between 2004 and 2014.
He said federal officials shouldn't be deporting people to Haiti at the same time they're warning Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to the Caribbean nation due to political unrest and the risk of violence.
"If it is not a safe place for Canadians, why should it be a safe place for Haitians who have fled the country?" Andre said.
The Canadian government issued a travel advisory earlier this month, warning against all non-essential trips to Haiti, citing "high crime rates in various parts of the country and ongoing political and social tensions."
Citizenship and Immigration Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
Claude said his problems began when he returned to Haiti after vacationing in Canada, when he and his family became a target for criminals due to their perceived affluence.
He said he sent his family away and booked a ticket back to Canada, landing in December 2017.
Since then, he's found sporadic work at a temp agency as he waits to be given a date for a hearing on his asylum claim.
He said an original date for June was cancelled, and he hasn't yet received a new one.
In the meantime, he's watched friends get deported, which stokes his fears that he'll meet the same fate.
Immigration and refugee board data shows that between February 2017 and March 2018, 68 per cent of processed claims by Haitian asylum seekers were rejected, while only nine per cent were approved.
But the board cautions the numbers represent only a small percentage of total claims and they are not a representative sample.
Claude said he's still hopeful that people will show understanding towards Haitians, whom he said have suffered for years due to poverty, natural disasters and political instability.
"I hope they allow us to come here and find peace and tranquility, to live a life that is respectable and acceptable," he said.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press